How Health Startups Are Creating Custom Medications And Diets At Scale
Breakthroughs in manufacturing techniques and genetic testing are moving the industry closer to a future where patients can expect custom healthcare
Customization is a growing trend in the medical and pharmaceutical industries, but one of the biggest challenges remaining is how to deliver custom care and medications to as many patients as possible. While most pharmacies already have the capability to create custom blends of ingredients for medication (a practice known as compounding), this can be a time-consuming process that creates more work for pharmacists and longer waits for consumers.
In recent years, however, a numerous factors have started to coalesce that provide a peek into the future of custom medications at scale. These include advancements in biometric tests, which provide greater detail into a patient’s internal biology, and new manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing, which are enabling the creation of new medications and supplements tailored to each patient’s specific internal chemistry, disease state and needs, all with greater output efficiency than ever before.
In looking at the ways in which brands and startups are optimizing the pharmacy experience, PSFK researchers identified Scaled Customization as a key trend driving change in the industry. Below, we look at three examples:
Rhode Island startup Vitae created a 3D printer, called AutoCompounder, that prints pharmaceutical pills and gummies in a third of the time that it takes for a pharmacist to fill a capsule by hand. It will also will be able to print complex “poly-pills,” which combine multiple medications into a single pill. Vitae intends for the AutoCompounder platform to help pharmacies more efficiently produce custom-dose oral medications.
San Francisco-based startup Habit is a nutrition meal delivery service that offers a personalized program based on genetic testing. Using the at-home kit, users collect their bio samples and send them via a pre-labeled package to Aegis, a CLIA and CAP-certified lab. The Habit app makes the test process easy by stepping users through it with instructions and timers. Habit then takes the information gathered from the test kit and makes specific meals that are sent to a customer’s home.
Many nootropics users are getting their genome sequenced by 23andMe or a similar genetics company to mine their genetic data for clues on how to improve their stacks. Nootropics user take those results and plug them into Nutrahacker, Promethease or one of the other free software options online to analyze the genetic data and provide supplement recommendations based on their DNA. The software looks for specific genetic variations in their DNA, which can predispose them to certain conditions; it then makes recommendations based on those variations.
In combination with other current trends in the pharmacy industry, such as at-home prescription deliveries and medical care, scaled customization further puts each patient’s unique needs first, while at the same time enabling pharmacies to perform more efficiently. For even more insights and examples, check out our recent report Reinventing The Pharmacy Experience.